Which costs more, a Mac or a PC?

In this on-going debate of whether a Windows computer is cheaper than a Mac computer, you need to take two things into account.  First, the upfront cost of each of the computers. Second, the total cost of ownership, or TCO for short.  For the sake of this article I’m going to compare a Dell and an iMac.  First I’ll price them out as stock without warranties; then, I’ll configure the Dell to match the hardware and software specs of the iMac.  Finally, I’ll look at the total cost of ownership for both.

Dell Inspiron 560s and the 21″ iMac

I configured a Dell Inspiron 560s with a 21.5” LCD Display, an integrated webcam and microphone.  I also added anti-virus software; which is something that is needed to protect a Windows computer from Viruses.  I tried to match the hardware and Software as close as possible to the iMac that I will be talking about in just a bit.  The total price of the Dell Inspiron 560s was $1,136.50.  This price was after discounts that were applied.  The original total price if Dell did not include discounts would have been – $1,420.75.  This is a $284.25 difference.  The thing with Dell’s discounts are that they change weekly.  So, if you don’t act quickly on the configured computer, you could be paying that extra $284.25.

Next, I configured an iMac 21.5” 3.06GHz computer.  The only thing I added to the iMac configuration was iWork to match the Office Productivity software from the Dell Inspiron 560s.  The new iMacs come standard with a wireless Bluetooth keyboard and Magic Mouse.  In contrast to the Dell Inspiron 560s, it only comes with a wired USB keyboard and mouse.  The total price of the 21.5” iMac configured was $1385.68.

As you can see the Dell Inspiron 560s costs more than the equivalently configured 21.5” iMac without the discount on the Dell computer.  The Dell is actually $35.07 more than the iMac.  However, the iMac is $249.18 more than the Dell with the discounts applied.  Basically, if you can get the Dell with the discount, it will be less than the iMac.  However, if you don’t get the discount, it will end up being more than the iMac.

Total Cost Of Ownership (TCO)

I would now like to talk about Total Cost of Ownership (TCO).  If this phrase is a new concept to you, here’s a quick and dirty example.  Total Cost of Ownership is what the total cost of the computer would cost you during the time you own the computer.  Maintenance and repairs are included in this.  One of the biggest costs for Windows owners is Virus and malware annual software subscriptions.  Generally, you can use free malware removal tools, as well as anti-virus applications.  But for anti-virus software you’re probably going to want something with a subscription.  With that said, you’re probably going to pay annually about $60.00 to $70.00 to protect your Windows computer from being attacked.

Another expense that is incurred by a typical Windows customer is virus and spyware removal done by a computer repair center, such as Best Buy’s Geek Squad.  You might be asking yourself why do I need to pay someone to do this when I have the software on my computer to protect it from this.  Well, sometimes people don’t update their virus definitions, or they get a virus or malware that is new, and it hoses the computer.  This is when you take your computer to Best Buy’s Geek Squad, and start forking over the dough.

This doesn’t come cheap.  The Geek Squad offers three different virus and spyware removal services.  For online support it will run you $149.00, for in-store support it will cost $199.00, and finally for in-home it will run you $299.00.  As you can see this starts to add up.  Click here for a complete explanation of the the services you’re paying for.

Now let’s add up the Dell with the discount, and the in-home service, now the price comes to $1435.50. Can you imagine what that $1136.50 Dell computer would cost you at the end of three years, if you have anymore virus/malware removals?  The iMac that you paid $1385.68 for will still be the same price over the three years.  I’m going to play devils advocate and say something might go wrong with your Mac.  If this does happen then your TCO will end up being more.  In my experience this has not happened.

When you really get down to it, Macs end up costing less in the long run.  The next time a family member or a friend tells you that you spent way too much on your Mac; you can ask them how much they paid the Geek Squad in the last couple of years.

Photo Credit: Apple.com/Dell.com ; •?pfaff

I'm a husband, dad of two great kids, and I have a passion for Apple products. I got my first Mac in 2005, and I haven't looked back. I like the simplicity of the Mac, and how does the motto… Full Bio